Family-Owned Bier Brewery Still Serving Up Craft Brews 8 Years Later
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photographer / Amy Payne
Having expanded from a nano-brewery in 2010 to a 20-barrel, full-production facility with more than 130 beer selections in less than seven years, one might assume Bier Brewery has found it increasingly difficult to keep its focus on putting out quality craft brews. However, co-owner Jerry Connor says the opposite is true of the Broad Ripple-based brewery he launched with his sons Darren and Ryan.
“When you focus on quality and consistency, it’s not difficult to grow naturally,” Jerry says. “If your business plan is based on quantity that’s where you can get into trouble sometimes, but we’ve always put our energies into quality and attention to detail. Focus, focus, focus – that’s what we’re all about.”
By the time he graduated from IU, having worked at Bloomington Brewing Company for several years while working toward his degree, Darren’s interest in craft beer had bubbled up into a full-blown passion, and he took a job for the next 10 years at Great Fermentations – Bier’s neighbor on East 65th Street. In 2010, Darren and Jerry felt the time was right to try their hand at a nano-brew operation and officially launched the business the night before Thanksgiving. Soon demand began to increase, and even after expanding to a seven-barrel system, the Connors could barely keep up with orders.
“The demand is really what drove our growth, so it hasn’t just been a matter of trying to grow just for the sake of it,” Jerry says. “We were the first nano in Indy and the second brewery to open after Sun King. It’s not just a hobby for us – it’s a passion and a profession. We continue to pay attention to the small details. There are no shortcuts.”
It’s truly a family effort. Darren heads up brewing operations while Jerry handles marketing and Ryan serves as sales director. With nine rotating selections offered on tap at the colorful taproom, the Connors and their staff offer growler fills and pint sales and offers snacks as well as menus from several nearby eateries for carry-in.
Bier now has a presence in more than 350 local restaurants, bars and liquor stores, and works with four Indiana distributors. Despite their consistent expansion, the Connors have no plans to be anything other than a family-operated business focused on making a great product.
“The challenge is to continue to make the best beer in the area, and do it with quality,” Jerry says. “We want to continue to be a leader as one of the first breweries here and touching as many people as we can and introducing ourselves to new customers.”
Customer favorites include Weisengoot, a German-style Hefeweizen, Special Kolsch and PDG, an American pale ale. Bier began canning in 2015, and since then has offered 10 canned flavors including Dankzilla Red IPA, Trackbier American Lager and Baseline IPA. Each year at Christmas time the Connors roll out Sanitarium, a Belgian quadrupel that the staff ages in kegs for 12 months.
Bier has taken home 70 Indiana Brewers’ Cup medals over the years, along with two gold medals at the 2016 Brewers Association World Beer Cup for Sanitarium and ESB (Extra Special Bitter).
“One of our friends calls our Sanitarium the Michael Phelps of Indiana beer, since it’s won so many awards,” Jerry says with a laugh. “Part of the batch we brew for that goes into bourbon barrels for aging as well.”
Proof of the Connors’ devotion to detail lies not only in the beer they crank out each week, but even in the hardware they use. Darren designed Bier’s 65th Street facility and had its refrigeration system and tap handles specially made.
“You could call Darren the MacGyver of brewing,” Jerry says. “There isn’t anything he can’t fix or design and come up with. He’s got a stainless-steel welder that he goes to that helps us out.”
When asked about the likelihood of expanding to additional taprooms, Jerry says anything is possible – particularly given Bier’s strong local and statewide demand.
“We’re always looking for expansion opportunities,” he says. “I hate to say we’re definitely doing something until we actually do it, but we always have our eyes open and looking for the right opportunity and location.”
Visit Bier Brewery and Taproom at 5133 East 65th Street in Indianapolis. Call 317-253-2437 or go to bierbrewery.com for additional information.